Turner, Francis, 1908-1999

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Turner, Francis, 1908-1999

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Francis C. Turner (1908-1999) was born in Dallas, Texas, and graduated from Texas A & M University in 1929 with a bachelor's degree in civil engineering. He worked as a highway engineer for the Bureau of Public Roads, earning a professional degree in civil engineering from Texas A & M University in 1940 as well. As a highway engineer, he was selected to work on the Alaska Highway Project in 1943. From 1946 until 1949 he helped restore roads and organize a highway department in the Philippines, serving as coordinator of the Philippine Rehabilitation Program by 1949. Upon his return to the United States, he became Assistant to Bureau of Public Roads Chief Thomas H. McDonald.

In 1954 Turner was appointed Executive Secretary to President Dwight D. Eisenhower's Advisory Committee on a National Highway Program . Turner's work on the President's Committee on a National Highway Program , or Clay Committee, (so-called after its Chair, General Lucius D. Clay), is widely acknowledged as being instrumental in the passage of the highway legislation that established and provided for the funding of a national interstate highway system.

Turner continued to work for the Bureau of Public Roads and its successor, the Federal Highway Administration, for the rest of his career, and ultimately headed these organizations. In 1967 President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Turner as Director of the Bureau of Public Roads, an occasion Johnson may have commemorated by giving Turner a copy of his book A More Beautiful America inscribed "To Frank Turner, with great expectations." (The book is included in Series 1. of the Papers and cataloged separately. See Items Separated section in this finding aid.) later, President Richard M. Nixon appointed Turner as Federal Highway Administrator in 1969.

Although Turner retired from his post as Federal Highway Administrator in 1972, he remained active in the service of the highway program for the rest of his life. He was influential in transportation circles, continuing his life-long membership in numerous industry associations such as the American Road and Transportation Builders Association. A member of an elite circle of transportation experts known as the "No Name Group" or "No Name Committee", he was also in constant demand as a consultant by agencies such as the Transportation Research Board and the International Road Federation. Perpetually researching issues relating to the transportation field, he remained a champion of highway causes until his death in 1999.

Over the course of his life, Turner received numerous awards, beginning with membership in the Philippine Legion of Honor in 1951. He was named a distinguished alumnus by Texas A & M University in 1969. The American Society of Civil Engineers honored him with the James Laurie Prize in 1971 and created the Francis C. Turner Lecture Series in 1989. In 1998, the Transporatation Research Board established the Frank Turner Medal for lifetime achievement in the field of transportation. Turner died in a Goldsboro, North Carolina hospice facility in 1999.


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